I recently suggested that you separate the intrinsic reward from the extrinsic reward in your gaming. Do you enjoy doing it, or are you just pursuing the imaginary shiny? My notion was that while our primitive simian brains reward us with neurochemicals for raising that number on the screen, it is probably better to do things we actually enjoy rather than chasing imaginary carrots on digital treadmills.
I am fascinated by the phenomenon of judging an activity by the reward at the end, rather than the quality of the activity itself. Adding achievements to a game increases its ratings. It is not just cognitive dissonance from people spending all that time chasing transparent dangling carrots; people really seem to get more enjoyment from that extra “Hurray! You did good!” from the achievement pop-up. My reaction to the Borderlands ending was that it was incoherent, but many commenters are far far far far far more bitter that they were not given a giant gun for beating the boss.
I understand why people repeat certain dungeons for loot, but some seem to lose the idea of having fun in the game apart from character advancement. An ideal design would make the most fun content the most rewarding (I know, tastes, preferences, play styles, etc.), rather than reinforcing the idea that you must slog through something to get the best rewards. That would seem like better word-of-mouth advertising. I usually hear players raving about how fun the early advancement is, rather than the late game. Is that just the novelty of the new shiny? A design change switching to late-game slogs as a slowdown technique? Or are we just irritable because the units of advancement are futher apart, and everything is fun when you level twice an hour?
Outside MMO-land, most games don’t have much in the way of extrinsic rewards. And looking at MMOs from the outside, all those digital shinies are still inside the game, providing no value unless you keep paying your $15/month, providing no value once the next wave of planned obsolescence hits.